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Newfoundlander Adam Holwell at Maple Leafs’ development camp

In this May 27, 2018 file photo, Acadie-Bathurst defenceman Adam Holwell (13) celebrates with teammates after scoring in the Memorial Cup final against the host Regina Pats. Holwell, a 21-year-old from St. John’s, is among 46 players invited to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ summer development camp taking place this week in Toronto.
In this May 27, 2018 file photo, Acadie-Bathurst defenceman Adam Holwell (13) celebrates with teammates after scoring in the Memorial Cup final against the host Regina Pats. Holwell, a 21-year-old from St. John’s, is among 46 players invited to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ summer development camp taking place this week in Toronto. — The Canadian Pess/Jonathan Hayward

Memorial-Cup winning defenceman has been targeted by Growlers, but he has his sights set as high as possible

Adam Holwell of St. John’s is attending the Toronto Maple Leafs’ summer development camp this week, which will naturally lead to speculation the Memorial Cup-winning defenceman is in line to play for the Newfoundland Growlers, the Maple Leafs’ new ECHL affiliate.

However, while 21-year-old has admitted there would be an attraction to turning pro with a team in his home province, he’s on record as saying that won’t be the swaying factor; Howell’s looking for an offer that could have him playing at a higher level than the ECHL.
“That would be exciting, a dream of anyone to play pro in their hometown, and especially for someone from Newfoundland, because there are not that many pros,” Holwell told Telegram Sports Editor Robin Short in late May after helping the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to their Memorial Cup championship.
“That said, I’m pushing for more, and if it means an AHL contract, well, I think any player would admit that’s what they want,” he said. “Whatever decision I make, it will be a hockey decision, not one factored on playing at home.”
It is known Holwell has been on the radar of the Growlers, who will be supplied with half or more of their roster through the Maple Leafs’ organization, but will be responsible for directly signing many, if not all, their remaining players.
And for the Newfoundland team, there’s a lot that’s attractive about Holwell beyond his birth certificate.
He played five full seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Moncton Wildcats and Titan, totalling 141 points (28 G, 113A) in 329 games. That included 71 points in exactly 100 games with Acadie-Bathurst over which time he posted a remarkable plus-67 rating.
Listed at six feet, Holwell is no behemoth, and his skating has been called into question at times — a couple of factors which may have played into him not being selected in NHL Entry Drafts — but he’s roundly praised for his passing ability, hockey smarts, tenacity, durability and quiet leadership. He was a Titan assistant captain last season and was named the most sportsmanlike player at the Memorial Cup tournament in Regina. What’s more, he was often trusted as the left-handed defensive partner of the right-shooting Noah Dobson, Acadie-Bathurst’s young star who was the New York Islanders’ first-round pick, 12th overall on Friday.
It also should be pointed out that if Holwell is signed to an American Hockey League contract — or even an entry-level NHL contract (ELC) with Toronto — it wouldn’t preclude him playing in with the Growlers. Players on ELCs or AHL deals can be assigned to ECHL teams, and two of the players taking part in the Leafs’ development camp are examples; forwards JJ Piccinich and Martins Dzierkals are Toronto draft picks who were signed to AHL contracts and spent last season with the Orlando Solar Bears, Toronto’s former ECHL affiliate. Defenceman Cody Donaghey and forward Nathan Noel, who are also from St. John’s, both played in the ECHL — Donaghey with the Brampton Beast and Noel with the Indy Fuel (as well as the AHL's  Rockford IceHogs) — as first-year pros with entry-level NHL contracts.
Besides Piccinich and Dzierkjals, there are other players of note — especially as far as the Growlers might be concerned — among the 46 invited to the Maple Leafs’ development camp this week:
• Forwards Matt Bradley, Brad Ferguson, Derian Plouffe and Scott Pooley, recently signed to AHL contracts by Toronto
• Rodrigo Abols, a 22-year-old forward, who impressed with for Latvia at the 2018 world championships after playing in Sweden’s second division last season
• Twenty-year-old Russian forward Vladislav Kara, a 2017 Toronto draft pick, who skated in 11 games in the KHL last season.
• Keeghan Howdeshell, a free-agent forward, and defenceman Mac Hollowell, a recent Toronto draft pick, two Ontario Hockey League products who are age-eligible to turn pro this fall.
• Forward Ryan Moore and rearguards Noah Carroll and T.J. Fergus, three more players out of the OHL, who like Holwell, skated as overage juniors last season.
Players attending the camp in Toronto underwent medical testing Monday, with the first full on-ice sessions today. Maple Leafs director of player development Scott Pellerin will oversee the camp, with Toronto assistant coaches Jim Hiller and D.J. Smith (the former St. John's Maple Leafs defenceman), as well as Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe and Fermeuse native Ryane Clowe, recently named head coach of the Growlers, also on the ice with the prospects.

Notes
Bradley (Montreal), Abols (Vancouver) and Carroll (Carolina) were all drafted by other NHL organizations, but never signed ... Fergus is the son of former long-time NHL forward Tom Fergus, while Pooley’s father Paul played briefly with the Winnipeg Jets …  Forward Matt Barnaby, who is in the Leafs’ development camp, is the son of former NHLer Matthew Barnaby, but Junior is committed to play for Lake Superior University this fall… Besides a couple of 18-year-olds — goaltender Zachary Bouthillier, a Toronto draft pick from Friday, and forward Egor Sokolov — Holwell is the only other QMJHL product in the Toronto camp this week …

brendan.mccarthy@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @telybrendan

Edited to show that Nathan Noel played with Indy Fuel in ECHL

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